The Manitoba government is under fire Thursday over its recent claims about job-creation numbers, with opposition politicians accusing the New Democrats of misleading the public.

The government has been saying its new five-year infrastructure plan, which is being funded in part by last year's increase to the provincial sales tax, will create 58,900 jobs.

The province cited a report it commissioned from the Conference Board of Canada, but the report actually says the program will create 58,900 person-years of employment.

"When you say jobs, there does leave a little bit of room there for people to misinterpret, and so I certainly prefer the person-years," Pedro Antunes, the conference board's deputy chief economist, told CBC News.

The same number was even mentioned on Thursday by Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers in announcing $76 million in spending for rural roads and bridges over the next five years.

Struthers said the funding, which is coming partly from the PST increase, is the biggest provincial government investment ever in rural renewal.

"Most importantly, to me, it's going to mean another 58,900 jobs. So we think this is a very significant, very historic commitment to rural Manitoba," he said in an interview.

Antunes said the 58,900 figure is a cumulative number of person-years of employment that the report says will be created over the five-year program.

For example, one person's job, held for all five years, counts as five person-years of employment.

The report says that, in any given year, the number of extra jobs will vary from 8,500 this year to 13,400 in the last two years of the plan.

Pallister issues challenge

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister challenged the media on Thursday to find similar examples from other governments.

"I challenge you to find that, OK? And then you produce that," Pallister told reporters.

"If you find that, you have found another government that lied to the people."

Premier Greg Selinger responded by tabling three examples, including a news release from 1995 — when the Tories were in government — in which Pallister was involved in a multi-year bridge project that claimed to create 265 jobs.

"We gave an example where he himself used person-years and called them jobs," Selinger told MLAs during question period.

Pallister told reporters afterwards, "I can't say that none of them came from person-years of employment because I don't know that to be a fact."

He accused the NDP of raising the provincial sales tax last year and trying to say it's creating tens of thousands of jobs with the money.

With files from The Canadian Press